Since the start of February, I’ve been charting a course for the new kid on the Israel advocacy block in our country, the Israel Britain Alliance (IBA). We celebrate everything Israel.
Its vibrant democracy, its values and its innovation, much of which would be lost to our world if the anti-Palestinian and anti-peace boycott, divestment and sanctions movement got its way. But why do we need another advocacy organisation – aren’t there enough already?
We already have IBA’s parent organisation ZFUK, We Believe, Stand With US, and all the Friends of Israel groups that have sprouted up all over the country, and they each do sterling work. And that’s just a sample of the groups that make a contribution to sensible debate about Israel in Britain. Behind those, we have BICOM, the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council.
Why do we need IBA? Because we bring a different offer to the advocacy table, an offer that compliments and connects Jewish, Christian and secular supporters of Israel across our country.
With their help, IBA will prosecute the case for Israel and our country’s successful relationship with the only democracy in the Middle East.
But to be successful we need to conquer three weaknesses that challenge every advocacy effort; ignorance, hesitation and apathy.
William Gibbs McAdoo, the 46th United States Secretary of the Treasury, said it is impossible to defeat an ignorant person in an argument. He was right, but you can help someone be less ignorant and, in turn, combat the antipathy towards Israel.
Wilful ignorance is, of course, a different matter; you can’t cure that – but you can expose it.
He who hesitates is lost, is an expression pertinent to our cause. When should we act? I believe we have to do more, increase our ambitions and make our voices heard.
On 13 June, MPs will debate whether taxpayers should spend 0.7 percent of our wealth on international aid. It’s an issue that polarises opinions. Some people believe that Britain, as a rich country, should help those who are less well off. Others believe that charity begins at home.
But there’s one issue we should agree on and speak out about, that taxpayers’ cash should not fund terrorism or incitement.
If London, Manchester, Newcastle or Glasgow faced a terror threat and we discovered a government department was funding the perpetrators, how long do you think it would take to stop it?
British aid in the disputed territories should be no different and yet taxpayers’ cash does subsidise payments to terrorists and supports incitement. The Palestinian Authority pays convicted terrorists salaries and supports incitement. The evidence is now overwhelming and damning. Even our opponents will answer the charge with a ‘Yes, but’ answer. The ‘yes, but’, followed by a justification for violence.
The 13 June debate is an opportunity for your voice to be heard in Parliament. You can – but don’t have to – offer an opinion on the validity, or otherwise of the foreign aid budget. But you can say that we expect a degree of consistency in government policy.
You can say the threat of terror against Tel Aviv or Jerusalem is equal to a threat of terror against any British city, or Paris, Brussels or Boston.
The IBA doesn’t underestimate the challenge of finding peace in the Middle East. Some may believe that weaning the PA off the support mechanisms for terror present a way forward. The problem with that thesis is that there is no evidence that this behaviour is being wound down.
The payments to criminals from the PA, via the PLO, continue and on incitement, President Abbas talks peace and then supports violence.
When peace does come, it will be based on compromise. However, there can be no give-and- take on fundamentals.
Britain’s aid programme is compromising on the fundamentals and that’s why the policy must change. You can make that change happen.
On apathy, here’s my final test. If you’ve just read this and do nothing, you’ve failed.
If you’ve gone to the IBA website, www.israelbritain.org.uk and signed up as a supporter, then congratulations. You’ve passed.
Jewish News spoke to Michael McCann on the Jewish Views podcast: